Discussing leveraging public financing for sanitation

  • AdaOkoWilliams
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Discussing leveraging public financing for sanitation

In the last month or so I read two documents that continue to haunt me as I am on a journey right now on promoting market based approaches and invariably private sector participation, entrepreneurial development as key to unlocking the sanitation lock.

I am sure most of us do know that market development is beyond private sector alone yes that is why we have the logo up there and I recall all the conversation that went into agreeing on the icons.

Now my worry today is, which i am really hoping you all can help me with is why are we not pursuing the well known and well threaded path that led developed nations achieving almost universal access to sanitation?... the path of public finance. Are we deliberately marking time and trialing / piloting options we have no clue what outcomes to expect whilst neglecting the known solutions?

Yes I know, when you have countries that are fantastically corrupt www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36260193 for instance, you might argue there is no way the solutions that worked in the developed north can work there right?

Does this argument give us the legitimacy to continue to do things we know won't solve the problem, continue to mark time till 2030? Only to convene again, set new dates and timelines to address the development problems of our times?

I am listening for your bold suggestions on how we can unlock the flow of public financing to sanitation. It is clear from past and recent experiences that Public financing is the game

Read these and share in my worry :



The following user(s) like this post: rkaupp, pf4wash
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  • Marijn Zandee
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Re: Discussing leveraging public financing for sanitation

Dear Ada,

I think you are right that we need much stronger government involvement (and money) to make real progress in sanitation.

See also the Wateraid article attached to this post:

It seems a bit that some of us feel that the government should do much, others that initiative should come from the private sector, while others believe in the power of NGOs and CBOs. I think they all have roles to play, but that we should be realistic about the role and limitations of our “favorite actors”.

In my view, the government is the only actor who can work nationwide, and is the only actor who can legitimately establish rules and regulations. I think it is not controversial to state that we expect from governments to come up with regulatory frameworks for sanitation (including approved standard designs and technologies, effluent standards, etc.).

I personally think that governments should take a lead role in awareness raising, motivational campaigns, etc. They can do this together with the NGO/CBO sector, but I think governments are the only agents who can take on a 20 year project like sanitation behavior change at scale.

When looking at products and services, I suggest a division into two groups:

1.) Front-end services
2.) Back-end services

(The names are semi-deliberately funny in this context :P )

Front-end services are services that households can be expected to pay for directly to entrepreneurs. (For very poor households a government subsidy could be considered). This includes a toilet and on-site treatment if applicable. (On-site treatment can be a pit, a septic tank, etc. based on population density and groundwater conditions.)

Back-end services are those that represent a “common good”. Mainly conveyance (especially when sewer based) and centralized treatment facilities. (Note: conveyance by trucks is a grey-area which is usually a direct private entrepreneur-client relationship.) These products and services can be implemented by the private sector (or by utilities), but are not fully “marketable” in the sense that tax money is needed for their successful operation. They are not a money making proposition, so they require collective funding. In my view that means that government funding is the most efficient.

I realize this model does still leave out the question of how we can motivate governments to efficiently (non-corrupt) take these responsibilities. However, I hope that the ideas can contribute something to a discussion of charting out who should be expected to do what.



Marijn Zandee

Kathmandu, Nepal

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  • hajo
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Re: Discussing leveraging public financing for sanitation

Dear Ada, Marijn,

I think the article ‘Good shit, good business’ by Rémi Kaupp says is all. In my view he describes perfectly what needs to be done to come closer to sustainable sanitation solutions (in peri-/urban areas): “Our work needs to be ultimately targeted at the local authorities and the utility companies so that they take the same interest as we do in the challenging – and motivating – issue of on-site sanitation and sludge.

Let me shortly wrap up my logic of the article which leads me to the same conclusion:

1. Sanitation is much more a problem in peri-/urban than in rural areas – at least in Tanzania.
2. In rural areas pit latrines (of whatever standard) serve mostly the purpose.
3. Problems arise with rising urbanization.
4. Sewers do not reach peri-urban areas.
5. Limited and often rationed water supply as well as costs limit the use of pour-/flush toilets connected to septic tanks.
6. Therefore people bring their knowledge and use of pit latrines to the towns.
7. But while in rural areas a full pit is covered, and a new pit is dug,
8. Due to space limitations in peri-/urban areas pits cannot be replaced and need to be emptied once full.
9. But pit latrines are not meant and therefore difficult to empty.
10. One reason being the limited access for vacuum trucks (honey suckers) due to narrow and poor ‘road’ conditions.
11. Secondly because the contents of the pits often is too dense to be pumped.
12. This leads to the hazardous work of manual pit emptying described by Rémi in his article,
13. Which is a threat to the pit emptiers’ health, to the environment and to public health.
14. Neither national policies nor local administrations or utilities see it as their responsibility to provide service chains (emptying, transport, treatment, re-use/disposal) for pit latrines.
15. They only care about sewers and vacuum truck services which mainly serve the ‘better-off’.
16. In Tanzania the policy assigns the responsibility for investment and O&M of latrines to the households alone,
17. And forgets that no reliable service chains exist for that purpose.
18. Unfortunately the mind-set of people and policy accepts only flush toilets as ‘development’ from pit latrines.
19. Sometimes they are even supported in this view by consultants (for whatever reason).
20. Therefore the difficult task is to convince national policies and local administrations of the usefulness and sustainability of on-site sanitation and sludge management,
21. Which does not only comprise ‘which toilet people build’ but also the development and running of the subsequent service chains.
22. This does not mean that local authority or utility have actually to run emptying services but they have to create the environment (enforcement of bylaws, approval of tariffs, supervision of service providers, …) to ensure the sustainability of required service chains.
23. And includes the question who (utility or municipality?) is responsible for provision of on-site sanitation services to the peri-/urban areas.

I am working with the public stakeholders (municipality, utility, regional administration) in Moshi since 1.5 years especially on the last four points and cannot claim that we have made considerable progress. But we keep trying. And I hope that with a convincing planning and proposal we may be able to attract donor, public and private funding for a successful implementation and sustainable O&M of service chains for on-site sanitation…

Ciao Hajo

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Albert Einstein
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of a genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
E.F. Schumacher
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. :-)
Albert Einstein
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